MS in Computer Science – Q&A | DigiPen Institute of Technology

MS in Computer Science – Q&A | DigiPen Institute of Technology


[MUSIC PLAYING] Hi, I’m Pushpak Karnick. I’m the chair of the
CS department here, and I’m a faculty involved
in the MSCS program. [MUSIC PLAYING] I would say that the
MSCS program aims in developing any fundamental
qualities or skill sets that students bring in
from their previous bachelor’s degree programs. And then developing it into
a more specialized skill set focused on the area of game
development in particular. We cover topics in
a wide spectrum, namely AI, networking, graphics,
databases, machine learning. [MUSIC PLAYING] I would say that any
candidate or any applicant who has a previous experience
with a bachelor’s degree in either computer
science or a related field would be a good candidate
for the MSCS program. We do not assume that the
students have professional experience, but we do assume
that they have some basic familiarity with computer
science technologies or have programmed for about a couple
of years in some of the standard programming languages,
like C# or C++ or Java. Most of our curriculum at
DigiPen will be based on C# and C++. So a familiarity with those
languages is definitely a plus. [MUSIC PLAYING] Where we cover a wide spectrum
of topics in computer science. Specifically, I’ll
take a few examples. Let’s say in AI, we cover
classical search-based algorithms, as well
as machine learning, or real time algorithms with
heuristics like path-finding or flocking behavior. In graphics, we cover state
of art rendering methods, like global illumination,
ray tracing, or BRDFs. In databases, we cover
relational as well as non-relational databases
and networking as well. And that’s just
the core subjects. There’s also a
wealth of electives that are offered on
an as-needed basis that students can sign up for. So a typical MSCS program
would be a two-year program. So it means it’s a
four-semester breakdown. So your first semester
would essentially be foundational courses in math
as well as computer science. We have CS529, which is a
game engine course, where we teach students how to develop
a game engine from scratch. So that typically takes your
first year or first couple of semesters. And then the second
set of semesters, semester three
and semester four, is where we offer optional
courses that we like to call concentration tracks. So if a student wants to develop
more detailed skill set in, let’s say, graphics
or networking or AI, then they can take a
couple of courses or more, given the electives
that we offer here in terms of specializing
in that particular field. [MUSIC PLAYING] The application packet usually
includes the transcripts from the students, letters
of recommendation, their GRE score, and perhaps
the most important is their statement of
purpose, or the essay. I would say that
there’s no one factor that we use as a
discerning factor to decide if an applicant is
good enough for DigiPen or not. It’s a combination
of all of them. The GRE scores are definitely
a good initial indicator, but we also pay close
attention to the essays that the students submit to us. Essentially, we
want to make sure that an applicant who
applies to the MSCS program has talked through the
process of why they want to be at DigiPen
and know what they want to do with their career. The criteria for applying
to the MSCS program assumes that you have a
bachelor’s degree in not just CS, but a related field. So for example, someone could
come in with a degree in IT, or math, or even
physics for that matter. Now, for applicants who do not
have a typical or a standard CS background, their
transcripts may not be able to demonstrate
some of the skill sets, especially in low
level programming, that we expect
from a CS graduate. So our CS entrance for these
applicants covers those fundamental topics
in, let’s say, C, C++, or operating systems. So where the students
have to demonstrate they have enough
know-how and familiarity with the topics on par
with a graduate, a bachelor graduate from a CS program. [MUSIC PLAYING] The MSCS program offers
three parts to graduation. There’s the
comprehensive exam part, and then there’s the project
and the research thesis. Now, the comprehensive
exam, essentially, is take a bunch of
coursework and then give an exam based on the
cumulative knowledge of all the courses that you have
taken in the four semesters. Depending on your project
or research thesis, no matter which one
you take, it really takes three or four semesters. That involves the student
doing some background work in a specialized topic
of their interest, and then spending three or four
semesters with a faculty mentor or advisor working
on an implementation to solve an existing
problem in that field. So in some ways, to draw
an analogy from the arts, I would say that the thesis
is sort of the portfolio project for our students. It identifies them as
an expert in that field, in CS, in game development. And on the flip side, it
also enables the employers to look at their
resume and go, oh, this is exactly
the type of person that we want in the
fit for our team. [MUSIC PLAYING] The faculty are involved
both in terms of teaching as well as in research. We have an amazing
team of faculty who are always trying
to give the best professional and technical
skill set to our students. And in terms of
research, they’re also available as individual
mentors as well as thesis advisors for students. [MUSIC PLAYING] I would say, based on
the observations that we as the faculty have
made over the years, that some of the fundamental
qualities underlying our successful
students I would say are diligence, discipline,
and dedication. Irrespective of what
background or what familiarity with computer science or game
development a student may come with as they enter
into the MSCS program, if they stick to the
three D’s, they turn out to be a good professional. Students who may want to be
a game tester, for example, are not heavily involved in
the production side of games, but more involved in
usability side of games. The MSCS program might
not be the best fit. [MUSIC PLAYING] So my background is in computer
graphics and visualization, and more specifically in
procedural visualization for GIS applications. And I’ve always been fascinated
with computers and electronics ever since I was a kid. And I distinctly remember
it was an eighth grade workshop for two weeks
that I participated in where we wrote programs using
BASIC programming language that got me hooked into
computer science. And over the years,
as I learned more about programming and
the field in general, I sort of decided this
is where I wanted to be. And personally, I’m
a very visual person, both as a learner
and in exposition. So being at DigiPen
here is literally the best of both worlds for me. [MUSIC PLAYING]

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